Guatemala’s landscape is dominated by the 33 volcanoes that make up the Pacific Coast ring of fire. We will focus on four of the most scenic volcanoes: active new-comer Pacaya volcano, Guatemala’s 3rd largest and Antigua valley resident Acatenango volcano, Central America’s highest point Tajumulco volcano, and Zunil volcano with her beautiful ridgeline approach and stunning campsite views. We will take in a huge cross section of the Guatemalan highlands, and see many towns, villages and Mayan culture along the way. Each volcano is distinctly different in their terrain, difficulty, view and environment, which makes for a truly unforgettable experience.
GUATEMALA – ‘RING OF FIRE’ ITINERARY
Day 1: Welcome to Guatemala
We spend the day walking off the jetlag and exploring the cobblestone colonial city of Antigua, Guatemala. This former Spanish capital still boasts a bustling center of culture and markets, and is decorated by numerous 17th and 18th century ruins to explore. On the Eastern edge of the valley lies the majestic Acatenango and Fuego volcanoes, the third and fifth highest peaks in Central America.
Overnight at Hotel San Jorge, Antigua
Day 2: Hike Volcan de Pacaya (B,L)
In the morning we’ll drive out of the Panchoy Valley and through the lowlands of Guatemala’s Pacific shelf. An hour’s drive will take us to the base of Pacaya Volcano, where we will begin our warm up hike for the coming trip. Pacaya has been one of Guatemala’s most active volcanoes since its recorded history begin. It has erupted over 20 times since the Spanish arrived, and has a constantly smoking crater. Arriving below the crater, we will be able to explore the vast dried lava fields and lunar-like landscape. We’ll even toast marshmallows in active heat vents!
Overnight Hotel San Jorge, Antigua
Day 3: Hike Acatenango to Camp (B,L,D)
Our morning begins with a scenic transport up Acatenango’s slopes, and into the small, sleepy mountain village of La Soledad (2390m). Our five-hour hike takes us through a myriad of changing microclimates and provides many scenic views of the surrounding countryside. We will spend the night in our private campsite, bench cut into the side of Acatenango, and overlooking the nearby Fuego Volcano, just 4km away. Fuego is the most constantly erupting volcano in recorded history, and during our night in camp, we will have plenty of time to appreciate the incredible sights and sounds of its eruptions.
Overnight Acatenango campsite
Day 4: Summit Acatenago and drive to Quetzaltenango (B,L)
After an early rise to enjoy the sunrise over the Antigua Valley, we will start our last push to Acatenango’s summit (3,975m). We ascend on sand and gravel scree-trail dotted with dwarf pines, taking in incredible views the whole way up. Atop the impressively large summit, we enjoy unparalleled 360-degree views of the entirety of the Guatemalan Highlands, including the peaks that make up the volcanic spine of Guatemala, stretching all the way to Mexico. After our 3.5hr descent, we make our 3.5hr drive to Quetzaltenango, Guatemala’s second largest city.
Overnight Hotel Modelo, Xela
Day 5: Hike Tajumulco to Camp (B,L,D)
To get to our next hike, we will take a 3 hour transfer heading even further up into the Mayan heartland of the Guatemalan Highlands. After passing by many local towns and farms, we arrive at the town of Tuichan (3030m)where we will begin our ascent of Tajumulco. With a relatively easy approach, we have a nice day of trekking through beautiful forest trails and wide-open landscapes. As we come toward the cone of Tajumulco, we make our way to our camp just below the false summit of Punta Conception. We will enjoy another warm campfire at high altitude (4000 m), and prepare for an early morning summit.
Overnight Tajumulco campsite
Day 6: Summit Tajumulco (B,L)
We will roll out of camp with our headlamps on in order to catch a spectacular sunrise as we make our final ascent up Tajamulco. On the summit, the highest in Central America (4220m.), we will enjoy incredible and breathtaking views over the countryside and above the clouds, looking eastward over the entire volcanic chain of Guatemala. After a 3 hour decent, we will take our transport back across the highlands, arriving back in the town of Quetzaltenango, and rest up for our last hike along the Zunil Ridge.
Overnight Hotel Modelo, Xela
Day 7: Hike to camp on Zunil Ridge (B,L,D)
After breakfast we’ll ride out to Xicam at the base of the Zunil Ridge. We will start our hike on these dirt roads, crossing through an area where a major battle took place between the Maya and Spanish Conquistadors. Once up at about 3000m, we join onto the historic Seven Crosses trail, walking atop this vertically s-curved ridge. As we hike toward our campsite on this ridge, we will see a series of crosses along the trail, marking memorials for certain deaths from the Mayan Genocide. This ridge is steeped in history from the Guatemalan Civil War, and also an important religious point for the local Maya. We will make camp for the night on this ridge, with incredible views from the central backbone of the spine of volcanoes in Guatemala, all the way back across Lake Atitlan and to Antigua, and up to Mexico.
Overnight Zunil ridge campsite
Day 8: Hike down Zunil and drive to Lake Atitlan (B,L)
After sunrise and breakfast, we will hike down 3 hours to the town of Zunil, where a transport will meet us and drive us up to local hot-springs. This drive up the slopes of Volcan Zunil highlights some of the lushest farms in the country, as we get a picture of local farming life in Guatemala. Once at the hot-springs, we will rejuvenate our legs and can rest and relax until early afternoon. From here we take a 1.5 hour drive to Lake Atitlan. At the lake we will be stayingin a beautiful cliff-side hotel, isolated and only accessible by footpaths and boats. Lake Atitlan, with 3 towering volcanoes rising from its shores, is about as picturesque as it comes.
Overnight Hotel Casa del Mundo, Lake Atitlan
Day 9: Relax on Lake Atitlan and drive to Antigua
We will spend our last full day relaxing on Lake Atitlan. With 3 towering volcanoes rising from its shores, is about as picturesque as it comes. The lake itself, the deepest in Central America, formed in the caldera of a former volcanic formation after the lava had been almost completely omitted in an eruption 84,000 years ago. Your guides will help facilitate if you would like to rent kayaks, explore other villages, shop, or you may simple want to relax in a hammock. In the late afternoon, we’ll make our final 2.5hr drive back to Antigua where we’ll celebrate an amazing trip with a Guatemalan feast!
Overnight Hotel San Jorge, Atitlan
Day 10: Adios
Transfer to airport from Antigua